Saksuka is one of the most popular mezes, appetizers at home, featuring our beloved eggplant (aubergine). It is delicious and easy to make. Garlicky yoghurt accompanies this dish really well. I like to add a little Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi to it; it really adds a wonderful flavor. If you like to make your own red pepper paste, here is my recipe.
Shakshuka (meaning “all mixed up”), is also a popular dish in the Middle East, made up of eggs cooked in tomato sauce, peppers, herbs and sometimes onions. For us Turks though, the name and dish Saksuka refers to this delicious, summery meze of aubergines, peppers cooked in olive oil, served with tomato based sauce. I like to add courgette (zucchini) here too – it really is summer on a plate. Vegetables are tratidionally shallow fried in olive oil for this recipe. For a lighter and equally tasty option, you can bake them in the oven too, as in the recipe.
Turkish cuisine is based on seasonal produce and we have a huge variety of vegetarian dishes, which I love. Over 70 % of the dishes at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, is vegetarian, showcasing the diversity of our dishes, healthy and easy to make ( please kindly note that this recipe is not included at my current book). Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book is available at this link and delivered worldwide.
I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe, Afiyet Olsun,
Preparation time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
1 courgette (zucchini)
1 red bell pepper
2-3 chili peppers (as hot as you wish), kept whole or sliced in half
Sunflower oil for shallow frying
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce:
400gr/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
10ml/2tsp. Turkish hot pepper paste, biber salcasi (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed with salt
5ml/1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Garlicky yoghurt sauce:
200ml/7fl oz thick and creamy natural plain yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 C/400F (if you prefer to roast the vegetables)
Using a vegetable peeler, partially peel the aubergine in stripes. Cut the aubergine in half length ways and then cut each half into thick slices. Sprinkle salt over the eggplants and leave them aside for 15 minutes. Salt will help the moisture come out of the eggplants. Dry the eggplants with kitchen towel thoroughly (otherwise the excess water will cause the hot oil to spatter everywhere).
Cut the courgette in half lengthways and then cut it width ways into thick slices. Deseed the red bell pepper and cut it into bite size pieces. You can leave the chili peppers as a whole or cut in half if they are too big.
Heat enough oil in a wide pan. Sauté the vegetables in batches until they are golden brown. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Lightly season with salt and ground black pepper. Alternatively, if you prefer to roast the vegetables, you can spread the sliced vegetables on a roasting tray and coat them with olive oil (about 2-3 tbsp) and season with salt and black pepper. You can then roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until they start to turn golden brown.
On a separate pan, sauté the garlic for a minute or so with the olive oil. Add the canned tomatoes and the hot pepper paste (if you are using) and mix well. Stir in the red pepper flakes and the parsley. Add salt and pepper to your taste. The tomato sauce is ready.
For the yoghurt sauce, beat the yoghurt with the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pile the hot vegetables on to a serving dish and spoon the tomato sauce over the top. Serve the yoghurt sauce by the side, accompanied by chunks of fresh bread to mop up the tasty sauce.